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Diesel Redhawks: Leasing Program to Take Flight

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Just three months after it announced its diesel Redhawk conversion aircraft, Redbird says it’s finalizing plans to lease the airplane to flight schools on a power-by-the-hour basis and it hopes to buy as many as 30 conversion aircraft by the end of the year. 

During this week’s Migration training and industry conference in San Marcos, Texas, Redbird was showing off the second completed Redhawk conversion and a third was under way in the company’s shop. Redbird unveiled the Redhawk at AirVenture in July. The airplane is a remanufactured vintage Cessna 172 equipped with a Continental Centurion 2.0 diesel engine, a modern glass panel and avionics, an upgraded interior and fresh paint. The target price was planned for $200,000, but Redbird CEO Jerry Gregoire told us the real number may be closer to $225,000. But that still competes well against a new Skyhawk costing more than $400,000.

In this podcast recorded in San Marcos, Redbird’s Roger Sharp said Brown Aviation Lease has agreed to take on and place a batch of Redhawks in schools that can put them to work. Sharp said the first year’s worth of production is already spoken for and he told AVweb that several conference attendees approached him about getting their own 172 converted.

“They’re [Brown] are going to partner with us for a specific number of airplanes to do a power-by-the-hour program. The flight school taking on the airplane would pay a fee up front to acquire the airplane, it will be a modest fee, and they will pay by the hour at a cost that can be passed on to the customer that’s palatable,” Sharp said. If a school finds it can’t generate the hours, it could turn the airplane back in without a penalty or acquire more if demand warrants. The program is intended to allow flight schools to have a modern, state-of-the-art airplane that’s also economical without a large financial commitment.

Exact costs of per-hour leasing? Not available yet, said Sharp, because Redbird is only on its third conversion and hasn’t settled on stable processes and prices with vendors.

One critical part of the puzzle, Sharp said, it getting a higher TBR on the Continental Centurion diesel that’s the anchor point of the conversion. “The more data we can get for Continental on the maintainability of the engine, the faster they can get the engine life period extended. That’s important in the long run for the economics of the engine,” Sharp added. Sharp said Redbird’s Skyport will be the consumer for the first six airplanes which, in addition to being active flight school aircraft, will also serve as test articles for various components. Sharp said the first airplanes may go to Brown as early as next February.

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